Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was perhaps one of the best titles to ever make its way into the hands of gamers; unfortunately the same cannot be said for its follow-up title. Puzzle Quest Galactrix from Infinity Interactive gave me initially high hopes as I thoroughly enjoy science fiction significantly more than fantasy titles, however I wasn’t prepared for the letdown I was about to suffer. Assuredly, Challenge of the Warlord was perhaps one of the greatest Nintendo DS games I’ve ever played and somehow I have a feeling that it developed a following of some sort. After all, the game has been reproduced on just about every single platform from the PSP to Xbox Live as well as PC. For a series that has so much potential, I was extremely disappointed with the second offering that I got my hands on.
Beginning the game by slapping your name on generic space adventurer number one, you expect that there might be something deeper here. I assure you that at first glance, it seemed as though there sincerely might be. The story is about a well-written as a Saturday afternoon film you’d find on the SyFy channel and never really seems to come into its own by making me feel connected to the characters in any way. More often than not, I would find the mindless droning any of them had to say annoying at the least. Had I actually been the captain of that ship, I would have lured my dimwitted crew into the nearest airlock with a piece of cake and enjoyed the silence once I press the magic red button. I understand that my character isn’t supposed to be a superhuman along with the fact that I’m not exactly being treated to a cinematic experience on par with Mass Effect here, but would it have absolutely killed them to try a little harder. It took roughly an hour for me to grow aggravated with the general story and the gameplay really didn’t do the title any favors either.
From the first puzzle mission I realized that there was a significantly more reliance here on luck. Certainly, there was a slight degree of it in Challenge of the Warlords, but I was constantly reminded of this sneaking suspicion I had that this game had the flavor of a rushed egg omelet, consistently leaving me wishing I would contract salmonella. While the puzzles are hexagonal as opposed to top down grid, the general idea is not lost on newbie or veteran alike. Try and line up three of any color and you’ll be groovy pants. The colors still act in the same fashion, giving you the energy necessary to cast abilities, gain experience while blue gems now serve to restore shields. Additionally, instead of lining up the now iconic skulls, you line up mines, which delineated by their numeric amount damage the opposing ship’s shields until their hull takes damage. Upon reaching zero of course, you win and spoils of war are yours, right? Wrong.
For all the experience you garner and weapons you pick up that you can mount on your ship, the menu system feels sluggish and flawed. More often than not, I found myself waiting on a loading screen and forgetting what I was going to do on my way to a menu before stumbling around trying to remember. As I would quit sifting through the menu in utter frustration, I would get back to the game only to realize exactly what I wanted to do and be more annoyed than ever that I would be treated to another loading screen. I understand games try to hide them, but Galactrix doesn’t even make a wild stab at that. It forces you into them, make you their bitch and giggles at you when you get irritated. Aside from the menu, I wish other elements functioned remotely well, but they don’t.
The galactic map, which I will say is damn huge had the potential to be something genuinely interesting to me. However, navigating about it made the controls feel extremely unsatisfying and the map system didn’t feel especially fleshed out. Epically large universes are cool when I’m playing Mass Effect because they are organized in some manner of fashion that I can be ultimately happy with, but Galactrix seemed to set the whole system up like a drunken man in the dark. More often than not, I found myself having to back away from the game so I didn’t hurt my DS, which became the innocent bystander in this scenario.
As far as being any sort of real challenge for gamers, the only test that you’ll find here is how long you can deal with the glaringly bad flaws that the game possesses. I understand the need for multiple game types and the desire to mix it all up as best as possible. However, when those modes curbstomp the very essence of what makes a game fun, then it becomes easy to say that this game and I won’t be hanging out together for a very long time. Sincerely, it boggles my mind as an anomaly out of the fact that I enjoyed Challenge of the Warlord to the point of being unable to put it down for days on end while on the other hand, I couldn’t wait to put Galactrix down. Perhaps, it is merely a case of being eclipsed by the original or failing to live up to my expectations. Nevertheless, a sequel should take whatever its predecessor brought to the table and not only improve upon it, but innovate in some significant way in regards to the overall design. This couldn’t be further from the truth, only serving to convince me beyond the shadow of a doubt that Puzzle Quest Galactrix was nothing more than a rushed iteration meant to appeal to a specific share of the market, attempting to capture the science fiction crowd.
Review Score: F (4 / 10)